The Wire - 19 March 2017
The Writing Was Always on the Wall
Each move Modi made awed us, even when he spewed venom. We were too ready, too eager to legitimise everything he did. Adityanath’s appointment is his latest move. The task before us will now be to find virtue in what has been done.
Narendra Modi (left) and Yogi Adityanath. Credit: PTI
Narendra Modi (left) and Yogi Adityanath. Credit: PTI
2017 can come only after 2014. The disbelief and shock greeting the announcement of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister-designate of Uttar Pradesh only shows that most of our commentariat is either politically naive or seeks to camouflage their own prejudices and biases the way the BJP has been doing for the past several years.
It is true that the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is not a normal politician. Nor was the ex-chief minister of Gujarat who is now the prime minister of this country. But we forgot, while discussing the evolving merits of personalities and conducting a comparative study of the virtues latent in them, that all of them were true sons of the BJP – which itself was not a normal party.
We kept lamenting the fact that the party which had a large-hearted poet as its leader was falling back on an iron man who rode a Toyota camouflaged as a chariot, asking Hindus to destroy Babri Masjid and leaving behind a trail of fire and blood. It only showed that we had little understanding of poetry and also of politics. A poetaster being toasted as a poet represented a steep fall in the aesthetic sensibility of the educated. But to call Atal Bihari Vajpayee inclusive was even worse. His record in parliament and outside demonstrates that he had the cunning to make the politics of anti-minoritism palatable for the willing. After him came the iron man. L.K. Advani was constantly compared with Sardar Patel and was ultimately transformed into a statesman. It was an astute politician like Nitish Kumar who asked that the BJP make him its prime-ministerial candidate in 2013.
Nitish broke his alliance with his partner of 17 years after it decided to junk the old man in favour of a more decisive and determined developmentalist. References to his consistent anti- Muslim utterances and his record in the anti-Muslim violence of 2002 were dismissed as unnecessary, irritating details. It was not only the BJP but the educated mass of Hindus who was preparing to welcome him as its leader.
None of them had changed their politics, none ever said that he did not believe in the ideology of their party which was nothing but the ideology of the RSS.
That it is not a normal party was realised by its socialist friends in 1977 when they demanded that members of the Janata Party could not have dual membership in the RSS. The Janata Party was formed to fight Indira Gandhi in the wake of the Emergency with the dissolution of many political parties opposed to Indira Gandhi, conservatives and socialists together. Jan Sangh, the political branch of the RSS also dissolved itself and merged with other parties to form the Janata Party. After some time, a demand was made that members of the Janata Party should end their association with the RSS. And the Janata Party broke. Members of the Jan Sangh preferred their affiliation with the RSS over their newly found democratic fabrication.
It became evident, even to those who did not want to believe it, that the raison d’etre of the Jan Sangh was to be found in the RSS. The metamorphosis of the Jan Sangh into the Bhartiya Janata Party was only a change in name.
The attitude of the educated towards the RSS gradually changed. There was much in the erstwhile Jan Sangh which could be used to argue that it was a party speaking in the name of and for the people of India, and there was nothing to suggest that it was anti-minority. Its slogan, ‘Har haath ko kaam do, har khet ko pani‘ (Jobs for all hands, water for all fields) had an economic message and there was no cultural nationalism in the open pronouncements of its leaders.
The BJP is only one of the outfits of the RSS which is employed to gain legitimacy in the popular imagination without compromising with the fundamental goal of the RSS, which is to turn India into a Hindu nation. The model is that of dominance over the minorities through establishing its hegemony among Hindus.
There was already a sympathetic section in the Congress party which wanted the RSS to thrive. Sardar Patel was forced to ban the Sangh as he could not have overlooked and ignored its involvement in the campaign which led to the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. But his bitterness with the RSS gave way to sympathies with its ideals when he found a way for it to operate openly by getting its leader to declare allegiance to the constitution of India. It was conveniently ignored that the RSS had not given up its ultimate aim, which was to achieve a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Entering parliamentary fora and through it the institutional nerves of the state was a strategy. The state would thus be captured and its constitutional mandate subverted by using constitutional means.
The present prime minister mocked the insistence on commitment to the constitution by getting an elephant to make rounds carrying a huge replica of the constitution when he was chief minister of Gujarat.
First loyalty always to the Sangh and its goal
The abnormal nature of the BJP has to do with its umbilical links to the RSS. All the leaders of the BJP have proudly declared their first loyalty is to it. Even the darling of the liberals, Vajpeyi, broke their hearts by saying that he was first a ‘Swayamsevak’.
They swallowed this because what they did not want was the native uncouthness which the saffron hordes brought with them. Vajpeyi, and later, Advani obliged them. Then came the man who conducted this anti-minority politics with a gravitas that one associates with a missionary. We have seen our media and analysts running after him, pleading with him to utter a small word of apology for what was done to Muslims in Gujarat under his watch in 2002. He firmly refused to oblige them.They retreated and started asking the victims to look to the future, to not remain stuck in victimhood.
That man then became the leader. Each move he made awed us. His ability to spew venom against minorities without caring for the constitutional niceties increased our admiration for him. We were too ready, too eager to legitimise everything he did.
So, here is his latest move. And the task before the media and the liberals will be to find virtue in what has been done. It would be considered regressive to go the archives of newspapers or YouTube and fish out (still floating) statements calling for the corpses of Muslim women to be raped after being dragged out of their graves, for Hindu idols to be installed in all mosques, etc. Those pointing out this filth would be called losers.
A friend has suggested that the exercise to whitewash the chief minister-designate of UP can have this jumla as its first line: He is not corrupt, he is dedicated and sincere.
Apoorvanand teaches at Delhi University